6 months of Google

Paul McElvaneyPaul McElvaney, Director at Learning Pool, posts an update on how the company is faring with Google’s suite of enterprise tools for email, calendaring etc.

Learning Pool moved its corporate systems like email, calendaring and document storage into a Google service. I wrote about it at the time but thought we’d do an update on what our experience has been since.

In general terms the move has been a real success. We’ve never lost connectivity, our service is reliable and robust and there are no performance issues. It also lets us work in a different and often more efficient way. All that being the case, there are a few things that are different from what we were used to and in some cases not as good. While these things definitely aren’t as good a reason to despair, they might be useful for someone. Here goes:

  1. The new solution have us no way of managing our desktops in the office. This seemed like a solvable problem but in the end we relented and bought an Active Directory licence which cost about £2,000. Not bad value but we hadn’t budgeted for it and it was a bit of a pain – at least we can print again though!
  2. Connectivity with iphones just isn’t as good as with an Exchange set-up. Things like calendaring are a bit weird and we miss the Exchange set-up for this
  3. Using Outlook isn’t a wonderful experience with Google. In hindsight we should have banned Outlook and forced people to use the Google interface but we may have had a mutiny if we’d one that!
  4. Mail is sometimes unexplainably slow – it always arrives eventually but if its 4 hours late its a bit of a problem. That said if your exchange server goes down, 4 hours looks like a walk in the park!
  5. Google spreadsheets are a real let down – they are fine for managing simple spreadsheets but once you go into an complexity (like introducing a formula for example!) then you are pretty much on a hiding to nothing!
  6. Everything changes a lot – while this is fine in the main and the changes are normally good, things like removing docs offline access caused a stir!
  7. Training is a bit of an issue. I know I know, Learning Pool should be on top of this, but we have struggled to help some of our users learn how to use the technology most effectively. The stuff that Google give you is pretty good but you always need to spend some time with non-technical users so that they are up to speed. When you don’t do this, as we didn’t sometimes, acceptance of the system tanks pretty quickly.

As I said, those things are slightly annoying but we can, and are, living with all of them. Overall, I’d heartedly recommend moving to a Google environment to handle the boring stuff like email and calendars – and whilst the Google productivity apps (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations) can’t quite match the desktop equivalents for features or power, their web enabled sharing and social functions make them a fantastic part of the toolkit, especially for a distributed workforce like ours.

We’re also keeping our eye on developments in places like Los Angeles, where the city government is moving across to Google Apps. Here’s a video explaining why they went for a cloud based solution:

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Dave Briggs

I'm an experienced senior manager in digital and ICT, looking for interim engagements to modernise technology teams to help organisations transform.

7 thoughts on “6 months of Google”

  1. Hi Paul

    thanks for this update – it’s refreshing to see the analysis post-adoption, and to see a run through of the sort of teething problems that you’re having. This is especially timely as I’m helping to pull together discussion points for a forthcoming third sector conference on Cloud Computing http://ukriders.lasa.org.uk/conferences/conference-2010/

    I’ve looked into a switch a couple of times, both for my own organisation, which has 7 staff, and for clients and others we advise – we mainly offer advice and IT support to small not for profits [ie 5 – 10 people] so they usually compare features with the free Google services

    Your experience confirms my thoughts about the need to choose between the shortcomings of two competing options. Exchange, an in-house server and Office offers lots of features and usability [for current users] that Google can’t match on a direct basis, even allowing for a well-resourced change-management training process.

    On the other hand Google offers the benefits of any cloud-based service that is ideal for mobile workers who are more active in email and word processing documents than spreadsheets or in-house databases.

    Last time we checked in detail some of the key Google features have to be paid for, such as sharing email inboxes, so the real test for us is the total cost of ownership against some of the key features that would be compromised.

    On this basis I wondered whether you would be prepared to share some illustrative costs so that we can see how the two stack up overall?

    Thanks

    Mark

  2. Another compelling solution currently in beta is the new version of Microsoft Small Business Server codename “Aurora” This offloads the admin heavy apps such as Exchange and SharePoint to the Microsoft (BPOS) cloud leaving a local server providing authentication, file & print services. Ideal for small companies that have neither the time nor resource to manage complex server applications.

    Ian

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